Stellar pitching leads Ridgemen past Rome

by Mike DeSanto

Sophomore Josh Stella (Hillsdale College) held the Rome Generals to two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks in seven innings, earning the 4-2 win for the Rochester Ridgemen in New York Collegiate Baseball League action.

“We had one little shaky inning there, but [I] felt like I was getting ahead of guys and executing pitches,” Stella said. “We played good defense behind me again. I felt good out there and it was just a big win.”

Stella, a right-hander, struck out eight hitters over those seven innings, giving him the second-most strikeouts on the team with 21. Senior Tanner Pruett (Crown College) leads the Ridgemen with 26 strikeouts.

“Just getting ahead, being able to mix my pitches and throw all three pitches for strikes was huge,” Stella said.

Stella also had a balanced fly out to ground out ratio, forcing six fly outs and five ground outs.

Ridgemen head coach Justin Dillard said Stella can always be counted on by his teammates to stay in the game mentally, not matter the situation.

“He’s just a competitor. He likes to toe the rubber, look down and not allow anybody to beat him,” Dillard said. “Whether he has good stuff that day, bad stuff that day, it doesn’t matter. He’s mind strong.”

Senior Casey Claflin (Shawnee State University) entered in the eighth inning, keeping the Generals scoreless and hitless while walking three and striking out two over two innings to earn the six-out save.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, when the Ridgemen broke through. Junior Josh Parks (University of Chicago) singled to centerfield to open the inning and advanced to second when sophomore Seth Hagan (Centre College) walked. The Ridgemen then executed a double steal, but the throw from home went wide of the third baseman, rolling into foul territory and allowing Parks to score the first run of the game, while Hagan reached second safely.

However, the Generals answered back in the fifth inning with a pair of runs to take the lead. Junior Carmine Giordano (Franklin Pierce University) led off the inning with a double, but was forced out on a fielder’s choice, though junior Caleb Kerbs (University of Maine Orono) was safe at first. This set up freshman Jake Balderston (Western New England College) for a game-tying RBI triple into the right-centerfield gap. Balderston scored in the next at bat, which resulted in a sacrifice fly out to centerfield for freshman Vincent Martin (University of Massachusetts-Lowell).

“Honestly, I was looking for a fastball,” Balderston said. “[He] threw me a pretty good one, [I] tried to get the barrel on it, hit it hard somewhere. They were playing me a little shallow, I’m not a guy who hits a lot of bombs, I’m not a big guy, but it was nice to hit one in the gap and score that run.”

But, the Ridgemen were not kept silent for long, as they responded in the bottom of the half to tie the game. Sophomore Brooks Pitaniello (Harding University) drew a walk, his second of the game, to start off the inning. Sophomore Sean Rooney (Point Loma Nazarene University) then stepped to the plate and struck a double into the right-centerfield gap, with Pitaniello speeding around the bases to score the game-tying run all the way from first.

“I just got a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it,” Rooney said. “I hit it, I was like ‘oh shoot, that ball’s in the gap.’ I did what I could and luckily it worked out.”

The Ridgemen’s third, and eventual game-winning run, came in the seventh inning. Parks got on thanks to a single with two outs, stealing second with Hagan at the plate. Hagan then grounded the ball to third base, seemingly spelling the end of the inning. However, the throw to first bounced into the turf, getting by first base and giving Parks the opportunity to score as the go ahead run.

Senior Ethan Luna (Southwestern University) added a pinch hit, RBI single, dropping the ball in between the shortstop and left fielder, in the eighth inning to plate freshman Jonathan Sabino (Coppin State University). Sabino had previously tripled to lead off the inning.

The Ridgemen then locked down the ninth, despite the Generals getting two runners on, to secure the victory.

Junior Tyler Crane (Nichols College) got the start on the mound for the Generals, pitching four-and-one-third innings with two runs (one earned), one hit and five walks surrendered, striking out three.

“I’m not normally one for walking a bunch of guys,” Crane said. “That was a huge part of not executing on the mound. I still kept it to a run, but at the end of it, it didn’t help our cause.”

Crane said the walks stemmed from difficulty executing his usual strategy.

“I’m more of a down in the zone kind of worker,” Crane said. “[I] wasn’t getting those calls, so I kept trying to pound it, try to get those calls, and then I started skipping balls. I just wasn’t happening, so I had to try to change my approach when I got on the mound.”

Dillard said the team was able to build upon previous issues and put together what was necessary for the win.

“Putting the ball in play with two strikes, that changed the game,” Dillard said. “So [Parks] in the seventh had a great at bat, extended an at bat deep into a count, put a ball out into left-centerfield, ended up getting to second and on the wheel play stole third, they threw it into left field and gave us the lead. Then in the last inning, all three balls put into play were [with] two strikes.”

The Generals’ head coach, Matt Burns, said his team did not perform well in any way, allowing the Ridgemen to take the win.

“It wasn’t very good. We didn’t come out ready to win,” Burns said. “We came out ready to play, but not ready to win, didn’t execute any facet of the game and that’s what happens. You lose.”

The Ridgemen improve to 5-14 on the season, while the Generals fall to 8-9.

The Ridgemen will next play on Wednesday when they hit road to take on the Syracuse Spartans at 5:15 p.m.

The Generals will travel to Wellsville Thursday to take on the Nitros at 5 p.m.

Ridgemen struggle in loss to Genesee

Senior Austin Marsh (Greenville College) struck out nine batters over seven-and-thirds innings in the Genesee Rapids’ 10-2 win over the Rochester Ridgemen in New York Collegiate Baseball League action Tuesday night at Basket Road Field. Marsh allowed one run on two hits and five walks.

“I knew our starting pitcher went pretty far against them last time,” Marsh said. “Our defense has been solid the last week, so I never have worry about anything like that, I know I can just throw strikes.”

The Ridgemen matched Marsh by starting sophomore Daniel Smith (University of Chicago) on the mound. Smith finished his start with six runs (five earned), eight hits and six walks surrendered, striking out two in five innings.

“It was a rough start. I got behind in too many counts [and] walked too many guys,” Smith said. “Then they just sit fastball and they know it’s coming. It’s tough to pitch like that.

Rapids’ head coach Joe Mina said the win was a very positive experience after a rocky road to open the season.

“We’ve been struggling, going up and down, kind of a roller coaster ride for the last week or so,” Mina said. “It was nice to see guys who have been taking a break coming off the bench and producing for us. Just a total team effort.”

The Rapids began scoring quickly, plating three runs in the first two innings.

In the first inning, after junior AJ Nitzschke (Northwestern College) doubled with two outs, senior Travis Ralls (Greenville College) singled to give the Rapids’ a 1-0 lead. The Rapids followed with two runs in the second on a single for senior John Zamites (Houghton College), scoring sophomores Josh Hayner (Messiah College) and Aneury Lara (New England College).

The Ridgemen broke up the shutout in the second, loading the bases with one out. This set up junior Connor Dunn (University of Puget Sound) to draw a walk, scoring senior Ethan Luna (Southwestern University).

Hayner came around to score again in the fourth when senior Adam Marston (Eastern Mennonite University) singled, but the Rapids delivered a blow in the fifth thanks to Lara.

With the bases loaded after Ralls reached on an error, freshman JP Knight (Tufts University) walked and Hayner reached on a fielder’s choice, Lara stepped to the plate with a chance to extend the lead. He wasted no time, jumping on the first pitch and driving it into the outfield for a two-run double.

Another two runs came across in the sixth when Knight drew a bases-loaded walk, with the ball getting away and allowing both Nitzschke and senior Judah Wollenburg (Indiana Wesleyan University) to score.

But Knight’s night was not over, as in the eighth inning with two outs and one on, he slapped a single into right field. The right fielder came up firing to try to get Nitzschke, who had walked, out at third, but the ball sailed out of play and Nitzschke scored.

“I felt like my last few games I’ve been seeing too many pitches, so I tried to attack strikes early,” Knight said. “Anything close I just like to drive it. [I] just got a couple good pitches to hit and took advantage.”

Lara scored on a sacrifice groundout by Zamites in the ninth with the Ridgemen adding a second run in the bottom half when senior TJ Lanning (Trinity College) tripled and scored on their own sacrifice groundout for junior Dillon McTague (Colorado Christian College).

However, this is as far as the Ridgemen got, as the Rapids got through the ninth to secure the win.

Ridgemen head coach Justin Dillard said there weren’t many positives to the game.

“It was weird night. We were bad [and] they made a lot of outs on the base paths,” Dillard said. “So what do you take from this? Not a thing. Hopefully, a night like this never happens again.”

The Ridgemen drop to 3-10, while the Rapids improve to 7-9 on the year.

The Ridgemen will next play Wednesday when they travel to Cortland to play the Crush at 6 p.m.

The Rapids will play on Wednesday, hosting the Olean Oilers at 7 p.m.

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